Super Entrepreneurs: Chris Nguyen and Lee Liu of JobLoft

June 25, 2007

Chris Nguyen and Lee Liu, JobLoft

JobLoft all started one day, hanging out at the mall. These Ryerson University undergrads, all friends, were sitting there and noticed a curious event. A girl was going from store to store handing out résumés, looking for a job, any job. Here was someone, young, probably a student, who needed a simple job to make ends meet. The best she could do is bet that at least one store needed to replace staff recently lost in their high-turnover retail world.

They saw the pain. They did their research. As it turns out, people who need to work hourly wage, high turnover jobs don’t want to waste money and time commuting for a job that doesn’t pay as much money for their time. Yet, the existing job sites did nothing to address this pain. Enter, a brilliantly simple idea. List hourly wage jobs by proximity to people’s homes, and text message job listings as they come available to candidates willing to pounce immediately. For employers this was a no brainer: quickly fill jobs with happier employees less willing to quit.

And then enter the Dragon’s Den. JobLoft got their big break on the CBC’s angel investment reality TV show. They were so close to not going. “We went in last minute to the audition. We didn’t even think we would go,” said Chris, but in the end, “I remember telling Lee before the cameras were on like, well, we have nothing to lose.” Not only did they not lose, but they convinced every single Dragon to invest in their company. They did it with poise, with preparation, with professionalism, and with day-glo orange ties.

Things didn’t work out with the Dragons, but it was all for the best. The exposure gave them needed momentum, and is growing rapidly. It has funding. It has customers. It is profitable. It has a good chance of being a true success story. And it’s only been a year since they started.

What’s next for Canada’s next team of tech entrepreneurs? If anything, the experience has helped them grow together. Three of the four founders live together, with the fourth close by. They have learnt how to balance stress, friendship, and dirty dishes, which is something to be envied. Well, they’re keen to finish establishing Then, they have more ideas to work on.

I’d say they are good bets.

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